Top Engineers – Robert Ludwig

Led Zeppelin II – Stan Ricker Versus Robert Ludwig

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

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Here is the story of my first encounter with a amazing sounding copy of Zep II.

I had a friend who had come into possession of a White Label Demo pressing of the album and wanted to trade it in to me for the Mobile Fidelity pressing that I had played for him once or twice over the years, and which we both thought was The King on that album.

To my shock and dismay, his stupid American copy KILLED the MoFi. It TROUNCED it in every way. The bass was deeper and punchier. Everything was more dynamic. The vocals were more natural and correct sounding. The highs were sweeter and more extended. The whole pressing was just full of life in a way that the Mobile Fidelity wasn’t.

The Mobile Fidelity didn’t sound Bad. It sounded Not As Good. More importantly, in comparison with the good domestic copy, in many ways it now sounded wrong.

Let me tell you, it was a watershed moment in my growth as a record collector. I had long ago discovered that many MoFi’s weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But this was a MoFi I liked. And it had killed the other copies I had heard in the past.

So I learned something very important that day. I learned that hearing a good pressing is the best way to understand what’s wrong with a bad pressing. (more…)

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Tonally correct from start to finish, with a solid bottom and fairly natural vocals (for this particular recording of course), HERE is the sound they were going for in the studio
  • Drop the needle on So Far Away – it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet still rich and full-bodied
  • 4 stars: “One of their most focused and accomplished albums … Dire Straits had never been so concise or pop-oriented, and it wore well on them.”

*NOTE: On side one, two marks make 5 moderate to light pops at the end of Track 2, Money for Nothing, and 10 moderate to light pops followed by 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 5, Why Worry. On side two, a tiny mark makes 5 moderate pops followed by 7 light ticks near the beginning of Track 4, Brothers in Arms.

Fully extended from top to bottom with a wide-open soundstage, this is the sound you need for this music. There’s plenty of richness and fullness here as well — traits that are really crucial to getting the most out of a mid-’80s recording like this!

Drop the needle on So Far Away — it’s airy, open, and spacious, yet incredibly rich and full-bodied. The bottom end really delivers the goods — it’s punchy and meaty with healthy amounts of tight, deep bass. (more…)

David Bowie – David Live

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides of this Bowie classic
  • One of our favorite live recordings – a great overview of Bowie’s career through 1974
  • 1984, Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me come ALIVE in performance like you have never heard before
  • A-List players of the day deliver sonic treats, including multiple horn players, multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, and the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass

*NOTE: On side one, a group of light marks makes about 15 light ticks one-half inch from the end of Track 4, Sweet Thing. On side three, a mark on the edge makes 4 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Rock & Roll With Me. On side four, two marks make 8 light ticks during the intro to Track 3, Jean Genie, and 8 moderately light to light ticks during the intro to Track 4, Rock & Roll Suicide.

What can we say? RCA vinyl in 1974 was ticky. Most copies of this album are a helluva lot noisier than this one.

When you listen to an incredible copy of this Bowie classic, you will have no trouble picturing yourself in the audience with a front row center seat. And the great thing about a record like this is that you can be in the front row of this very concert whenever you want!

The other top live album is, of course, Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are consistently better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements — with the Tower of Power horns — just murder the studio ones.)

For us audiophiles, the other reason to own a Hot Copy of David Live or Waiting For Columbus is that the sound is much improved over most of the studio albums in which the material was originally found. Have you ever heard a good sounding Diamond Dogs?

But David Live is full of great sounding material from the album. 1984 is much better here than on the original album. Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me also come alive in performance. They rock! (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys

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  • Outstanding sound for this Robert Ludwig mastered Capitol Green Label pressing with each side rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER
  • Tons of bass, smooth vocals, and an overall freedom from distortion characterize the sound of both sides, and that’s unusual because most copies of this record are just plain dreadful
  • Trust me on this one – you’re going to have a difficult and expensive adventure trying to find a great sounding copy of this one on your own
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although he could be an erratic live performer, for these shows, Hendrix was on — perhaps his finest performances… not only an important part of the Hendrix legacy, but one of the greatest live albums ever.”

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AC/DC – For Those About To Rock

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  • For Those Who Waited Patiently, we FINALLY have another KILLER copy of For Those About To Rock with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Once again Robert Ludwig delivers the Rock and Roll Power – incredibly big, bold and full-bodied with a massive bottom end
  • For Those About To Rock has wall to wall sound and in-the-room presence like you will not believe
  • “On For Those About to Rock We Salute You, AC/DC’s best album, the case for the band’s talents is finally made with undeniable force and clarity. You want anthems? Here, they abound.” – Rolling Stone

From the moment the title track began, we knew we were in for a real treat. The transparency and clarity are shocking — we heard texture on the guitars and room around the drums that simply weren’t to be found elsewhere, plus tons of echo and ambience. The vocals simply could not be any better — they’re breathy and full-bodied.

The bottom end is Right On The Money — big, beefy, and rock-solid. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing?”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I am an avid vinyl cat and have been all of my life. I am super curious about your vinyl. I have a pretty good ear myself for top-shelf LP’s but I am just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing? Or maybe you have and I just have not noticed?

Thanks so much for a response and much respect for what you are doing and selling…

Dana

Dana, we explained it here, in a little commentary we like to call The Book of Hot Stampers.

We give out no stamper numbers, no information about cutting engineers as a rule, although we do break that rule from time to time. Here is an excerpt of a listing for Rock of Ages from way back when:

What We Thought We Knew

In 2006 we put up a copy with with what we implied were Hot Stampers (before we were using the term regularly) on at least one side:

Side One sounds tonally right on the money! This is as good as it gets… Robert Ludwig mastered all of the originals of these albums, but some of them have bad vinyl and don’t sound correct.

I only played side one of the album, so I can’t speak for the other sides, but what I heard was sound about as good as I think this album can have.

There are some truths along with some half-truths in the above comments, and let’s just say we would be quite a bit more careful in our language were we writing about that copy today.

One side is no indication whatsoever as to the quality of the other three, and without the kind of cleaning technologies we have available to us today, I wouldn’t want to make a “definitive” sonic assessment for any of them.

When you play uncleaned or poorly cleaned records you’re hearing a lot of garbage that has nothing to do with the sound of the actual vinyl. (Note that we are joking above: there is no such thing as a definitive sonic assessment of a record, from us or anybody else.)

Ludwig cut many bad sounding records. Roxy Music Avalon original domestic pressings are RL and are made from dubs — and sound like it.  Same with Dire Straits’ Alchemy. Some RL Houses of the Holy sound amazing and some only decent.  It’s the nature of the beast. (more…)

Here’s a Question for Fans of the Modern Heavy Vinyl Pressing

Hot Stamper Pressings of Led Zeppelin Albums in Stock

 

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Before you answer the question we have posed below, start by naming all the Heavy Vinyl records that sound as good or better than Robert Ludwig‘s original mastering of Led Zeppelin II.

Modern engineers tell us they can cut records better now than ever before, with all the bass and dynamics that previous engineers were forced to limit for the cheap tables and carts of the past.

So where are these so-called New and Improved records, the ones with more bass and dynamics?

I have yet to hear one. Perhaps someone can point me in the right direction.

Send your list to tom@better-records.com

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison. (more…)

The Band – Rock Of Ages

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  • Superb sound throughout with all four sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies are surprisingly TRANSPARENT — just listen to all the “room” around the vocals on these four sides
  • A classic double live album with a consistently well-arranged and energetically performed set of songs
  • 4 stars” “It could be argued that it captured the spirit of the Band at the time in a way none of their other albums do.”
  • One of the few copies from our shootout that had no marks that play, a rarity for this title!

The performances are uniformly excellent, and the live five-piece horn section adds a lot to the fun and energy of the music. (The same can be said for Little Feat’s live album, Waiting for Columbus. We’ve been offering Hot Stampers on that album for years; it’s the best way to hear the band at their best, outside the studio.)

There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals, in-your-listening-room presence, and plenty of rock and roll energy.

All four sides here are bigger, richer, clearer and smoother than most of the other copies we played. The energy level is off the charts. This is The Band playing live at the peak of their powers. Hearing this killer pressing should be unlike anything you have experienced before, unless you saw them back in the day, more than forty years ago, and how many of us can honestly say we did? (Honestly being the operative word there.)

It should go without saying that this is music that belongs in any popular music collection. My favorite song here is “I Don’t Want To Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes.” It’s The Band at their best — LIVE. (more…)

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live – How Good Are the Robert Ludwig Pressings?

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The best domestic pressings we heard, the ones cut by Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk, were simply not competitive with the original British LPs. The evidence is pretty clear that the master tapes stayed in England and that only the British pressings are made from them.

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Piano Works of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel / Ivan Moravec – The Only Good Record Athena Ever Made

Athena, not a label we have ever associated with good sound!

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But they did a great job on this album (or at least I thought so many years ago when I played it last. For purposes of this commentary, let’s assume the sound still holds up).

This is how to make a good audiophile record. Yes, there is such a thing. They may be rare but they do exist.

Take a good tape, hire someone who knows his way around a normal-speed cutting lathe (with 5800+ credits on Discogs I would hope he knows what he’s doing) as well as classical music (he cut a huge number of records for Nonesuch back in the day, which means he also can work fast and cheap), press it on good vinyl and let the audiophiles of the world enjoy it.

The Connoisseur Society original may in fact be better, but where are you going to find one?

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